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David Bowie

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In those remote days, David was only concentrating on the UK and the US as far as live appearances were concerned (to the best of my knowledge).

This live album was the first opportunity for the continental European fans (as I was) to share the thrill of one of his concerts. And I have to say that I was never really over-enthusiast about this recording.

Track list IS impressive, but the rendition of most of these great numbers are average. Actually, the Bowie sound was just evolving from his great Ziggy years (I can't help to remind those ones.) and the upcoming soul times ("Young Americans). IMO, it was a painful change. From the best to the worse.

A few Ziggy's numbers here and there were not a great idea. In his following live album, David will group them one after the other, which was a far much clever idea. At least, I feel so.

Lots of wind instrument for this "Diamond Dogs" tour, but again it is just precursory of what is going to happen a few months later. Needless to say, David is not in his best shape either. Drugs have a tremendous impact both physically (he looked closer to the "Frankenstein" creature than anything else) and creatively. Listen to this version of "Changes" to get an idea.

None of the numbers are superior (nor even equaled) to their studio counterparts, mostly because of their afro-jazz influence.

To make a long story short, I would pinpoint "All The Young Dudes"; even if I far much prefer the version from "Mott The Hoople" on their fantastic live album. Still, it was the first opportunity to hear a live Bowie version which makes this one a potentially interesting moment.

I believe that a GREAT occasion has been missed with the release of this live album. Probably a tour too late to do so. But some might say, better late than never. I would say that this first live album is just average because of the whole soul influence and needless wind instruments . It could have led to a masterpiece, but of course we are far from this.

The bad habit of making some easy money with fan's addiction will lead to re-create the concert with the set list in the proper sequence in a later release. This is exactly what I just hate. Being Bowie or whoever it might be.

Average to good, this is how I would rate this album. And Earl Slick, nor Mike Garson won't help this crash. The worse being reached with an absolutely dreadful version of "The Jean Genie". Help!!!

Too many flat versions of great songs, too little passion, too much sax and related stuff (just listen to the disastrous first half of "The Width."). Where are the rocking days?

Same feeling as in 1975. Two stars.

Report this review (#174869)
Posted Sunday, June 22, 2008 | Review Permalink
Tarcisio Moura
3 stars I´ve got to admit that I like this album. More than in 1975, I should say. The CD version sounds a little brighter than my old vinyl copy. Still, it is quite below expectations for Bowie´s first ever live offering, especially if you consider the set list. Clearly, something is not right with most of the songs. And it´s hard to point where or what.

Actually the album starts very well, with a stunning, powerful, better-than-studio version of 1984. This track really soars and give me goose bumps everytime I hear it even today. Everything works on this song and it´s the album highlight for me. Moonage Daydream is also very good, but Rebel Rebel starts the letdown. This rocking tune should work perfectly live, but this rendition just pales if you think about the original one. And so it goes. Sweet Thing even drags on for over 8 minutes (even if is partially saved by Mike Garson elegant piano).

All the muscians involved are very good, but the band just does not seem to click. The backing vocals are fantastic, but they alone can´t save the show. Bowie was in a transition state, between his space age character and his new, thin white duke persona (soon to be presented to the world with his Young Americans LP that was released a few months after DL). So the song arrangements reflected that, because they show definitive schizofrenic playing. Not soul enough, not too rocking either.

This is not to say David Live is a bad record. Bowie´s talent as songwriter and perfomer was too big to give a less than a good performance. It was only disappointing when compared to his live shows before that, especially the ones he played along with his former sidekick Mick Ronson and the Spiders From Mars. The album has its moments, but could be a lot better ( and I mean, a LOT better). My rating keeps swinging somewhere between 2 and 3 stars. So a 2,5 star rating is more fitting.

Report this review (#227676)
Posted Monday, July 20, 2009 | Review Permalink
2 stars I don't hate this quite as much as seemingly everybody else does (the rating at PA is a good deal higher than what I'd expect to see elsewhere), but that doesn't mean I find it very good. The quick and dirty summary that usually goes with this album is that this is the recording where Bowie decided to reinterpret his back catalogue as plastic soul numbers, but that doesn't quite nail it. I'd almost go so far as to say that if that really fully described this album, I could actually dig this; as is, this album has more fundamental problems than one would imagine just from reading the usual descriptions of it.

The first problem is that, while David and company certainly lean their performance in the direction of soul, they also make an attempt to have the performance qualify as arena rock, and the combination doesn't work well at all. There's a good chunk of electric guitar posturing, yes, but there's no real energy or power or anything along those lines that's required for decent arena rock. Look, I get that Bowie wanted to get away from his glam posturing of a couple of years previous, but I'd almost rather that he'd gone all out with his reinventions and completely ditched any rock presence whatsoever, somewhat like what he did on Young Americans (not that that's a great album, but it would be funny to hear the back catalogue sounding more like that than this). I mean, what's the point of hearing the guitar line of "Rebel Rebel" over and over again if it's going to be played in a lazy, boring manner? I'm not saying I'd want to hear more of the lazy saxophone wailing that Bowie seems to think is all you need to make something into soul, but if he'd spiced things up a bit, thrown some diversity and variety into the mix, and had basically taken more care in forming this concert (like, say, including more than one cover of an old soul song), he could have had his own Live at Budokan years before Dylan did it (and yes, I know most people don't like Dylan's reinventions there, but I think they're a crackup). Alas, pretty much everything gets pegged into the same halfhearted arena soul hole, and it's not a great time.

The second major fundamental problem is that Bowie's vocal performance is horrendous. His voice clearly starts to deteriorate less than a quarter into the show, and he becomes less and less able/willing hit the right notes with any significant power as time goes on. If ever somebody wanted to make a serious argument that Bowie is secretly a terrible singer, this concert would pretty much have to be exhibit 1a, wouldn't it? I'm not asking for exact duplication of studio performance, and I guess that Bowie thought that just getting roughly in the neighborhood of correct notes was what constituted "authentic" soul singing, but I don't think it would have been too much to ask for something better than what we got here.

As for the songs themselves, the upside is that most of the Diamond Dogs performances (and he ultimately does all of the material from that album except "Future Legend" and "We Are the Dead") are pretty good (aside from the travesty that is "Rebel Rebel" here), and "Time" ends up sounding right at home and goofily enjoyable as ever. Oh, and I guess "Space Oddity" sounds ok enough. On the downside, he massacres one previously good song after another from Man Who Sold the World through Aladdin Sane (as well as a so-corny-it's-almost-funny rendition of "All the Young Dudes"). What's funniest to me about these performances is that, especially because of the prominent saxophone wailings, these actually end up sounding a good deal like the pseudo-rock performances that crept up in Frank Zappa's final live tour, except Frank was more diverse and inventive in his rearrangements and constantly had tongue planted firmly in cheek. If you're going to have songs that are as heavily tied to great performance and clever arrangements as to solid melodies, then you have to have great performance and clever arrangements for them to work. Strip away those strengths and you're left with the muck that makes up this album.

Ultimately, I think there's more salvagable material here than many people might believe, but that's not saying much. If you absolutely have to get this, make sure you get the full remaster that restores the whole concert in order and has supposedly superior sound quality to the original (I'd hate to imagine how that would have sounded, as the sound here isn't exactly pristine), but you'd be better off just not getting it.

Report this review (#295255)
Posted Thursday, August 19, 2010 | Review Permalink
3 stars Bowie missed a trick here by not calling this one Live Oddity, because this is a truly strange live album. To many, it was a massive disappointment on its original release, because it offers little of the glam rock style which, as of Diamond Dogs, David was still most closely associated with.

With the Spiders having broken up (just as Ziggy promised they would be!), Bowie had cobbled together a new band led by Michael Kamen and performed his repertoire in a curious art rock style which worked in a bunch of influences, including a mild dose of the Philly soul which would in later legs of the tour come to dominate it sound and be the fulcrum of Young Americans.

At the same time, the space given to the band to jam away at times makes it feel a bit looser and more classic rock- oriented than that stylistically very disciplined album, whilst at points the presentation feels like it is trying to crawl towards something like Bowie's late-1970s art rock sound as on Station to Station without being entirely sure how to get there, Young Americans having been perhaps a necessary detour along the way to help Bowie get his sound in order before pushing on.

In terms of sound quality, it is alright in general, though it can be a little heavy on the audience noise and Bowie sometimes seems to be the worse for wear. This was the tour documented on the classic Cracked Actor documentary, of course, so we're coming into that bit of the 1970s where Bowie and cocaine where pretty much one and the same.

Ultimately, it's a mess, but it's an interesting enough mess that Bowie fans interested in this strange transitional time may find it worthwhile. It's at its best when it's doing the torch song type compositions, like Time from Aladdin Sane or the Sweet Thing/Candidate/Sweet Thing (Reprise) triptych from Diamond Dogs.

Report this review (#1632304)
Posted Saturday, October 15, 2016 | Review Permalink

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